Selected Poems

Overview

Thom Gunn was an Elizabethan poet in modern guise, though there’s nothing archaic, quaint, or sepia-toned about his poetry. His method was dispassionate and rigorous, uniquely well suited for making a poetic record of the tumultuous time in which he lived. Gunn’s dozens of brilliantly realized poems about nature, friendship, literature, sexual love, and death are set against the ever-changing backdrop of San Francisco—the druggy, politically charged sixties and the plague years of AIDS in the eighties. Perhaps no...

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Overview

Thom Gunn was an Elizabethan poet in modern guise, though there’s nothing archaic, quaint, or sepia-toned about his poetry. His method was dispassionate and rigorous, uniquely well suited for making a poetic record of the tumultuous time in which he lived. Gunn’s dozens of brilliantly realized poems about nature, friendship, literature, sexual love, and death are set against the ever-changing backdrop of San Francisco—the druggy, politically charged sixties and the plague years of AIDS in the eighties. Perhaps no contemporary poet was better equipped—by temperament, circumstance, or poetic gift—to engage the subjects of eros and thanatos than Thom Gunn. This new Selected Poems, edited and with an introduction by the poet August Kleinzahler, supplants the 1979 Selected, presenting more of the later work and providing a fuller retrospective account of the breadth and magnitude of Gunn’s extraordinary achievement.

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Editorial Reviews

David Orr
Gunn was a very funny poet, and it would have been good to see more of that. But of course, his total output ran well over 500 pages, almost all of which are well worth reading, and any selection was bound to have holes critics would cry over. It's to the credit of this remarkable writer that those absences seem unimportant beside what is so rousingly present.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Serious readers of contemporary poetry who agreed on nothing else could agree to admire Thom Gunn. When Gunn died, age 75, in 2004, critics in his native England remembered a tough young writer who gained fast fame in the 1950s, whose cool pentameters praised motorcycles and Elvis; Americans remembered the certainly learned, and yet perpetually youthful poet who made San Francisco his permanent home, a celebrant of gay life in the 1970s, and an elegist of HIV and AIDS in the 1990s, his extreme topics subjected to remarkable formal control. Kleinzahler (Sleeping It Off in Rapid City)-another San Francisco writer, and a friend of Gunn's for decades-has put together a slender, effective selection, from early set pieces ("On the Move") to midcareer retrospectives like "Autobiography" ("The sniff of the real, that's/ what I'd want to get") through the valedictory poems of Boss Cupid (2000), with its long-delayed, careful response to Gunn's mother's suicide. Gunn "became more adventurous as he grew older," says Kleinzahler's avid introduction, and the whole of the poems bear him out. The introduction, and the choice among poems, emphasizes Gunn's adventurous range in technique-quatrains, trimeter stanzas, meticulous free verse, and so on-more than it shows his sometimes adventurous life: Gunn wrote of dance clubs, street protests, drugs, and sex, but also about grief, care and personal loyalty. Though the volume seems too brief, the whole of Gunn's power shines through. He could find many more readers now.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374258597
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/31/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 985,415
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Thom Gunn (1929–2004) was educated at Cambridge and had his first collection of poems published while still an undergraduate. He moved to northern California in 1954 and taught at American universities until his death. His last collection was Boss Cupid (FSG, 2000).

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